Orbán’s nominee for president: anti-gender crusader Katalin Novák

Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán announced Fidesz will put forward Katalin Novák for president. The step ensures Orbán’s party will have an ally in the office even if they lose the general elections coming up in spring. Former minister for families Novák is the face of the Hungarian government’s anti-gender campaign and interacted with various Russian individuals believed to be close to intelligence operations.

by Márton Sarkadi Nagy, Atlatszo.hu

By the time Katalin Novák will welcome representatives of some of the most influential ultraconservative networks from across the globe at a summit in Budapest, hosted by an organisation she chairs, she might well be already the next president of Hungary.

PM Viktor Orbán announced that his right-wing Fidesz party will nominate Novák for the office in December.

Novák’s stable rise as a Fidesz politician in Orbán’s successive administrations since the party’s landslide electoral victory of 2010 can be in no small part attributed to her championing of “traditional family values.” Novák, who is fluent in English, French, and Spanish, started her political career in the foreign ministry, was appointed state secretary, and later minister for families.

Novák surrendered her ministerial appointment upon the nomination, by the end of last year. Orbán will not appoint a new minister for families as the portfolio will be taken over by the PM’s office.

Last year we’ve reported on the personal connections Novák cultivated with international homophobic networks, including with various Russian individuals believed to be close to intelligence operations.

“I’ve been taking part in arguments [with the European Commission] for seven years now, and I could endlessly recite those documents with an undercurrent of gender ideology, which they want to force on us,” Novák explained in an interview in 2020. “Naturally, in these wars of ideas we need allies.”

According to Rémy Bonny, a Belgian political scientist and LGBTQI activist, “Russia’s international fight against LGBTI rights is an inherent part of its strategy to undermine the European Union’s liberal democracy. Through international homophobic networks, Russian intelligence made contacts with Hungarian government representatives. Since then, LGBTI rights in Hungary have been going backwards, and the country has been vetoing the evolution of LGBTI rights at the EU level. Hungary’s contacts with Russia endanger its (and the EU’s) national security.”

Novák chairs the advisory board of the Political Network for Values. This organisation, headquartered in Spain, will host a transatlantic summit in Budapest at the end of May.

The mandate of János Áder, the current head of the republic will expire by May 10.

The date for the vote on Novák is not yet chosen, but legally it should predate Áder’s leaving of the office by 30 to 60 days.

Parliament is expected to vote Novák in before the general elections in the spring, and so ensure an Orbán ally remains in the office even in case of Fidesz losing the popular vote. Currently, Fidesz enjoys a two-thirds majority in parliament, which elects the president for a five-year term.

While there is no set date for the elections (to be held sometime in April or May) so far, Áder is expected to choose a date after the current MPs vote on the new president.

The office of the president in Hungary is largely ceremonial, but an adversarial president can be a major thorn in the side of any government. Should the electoral alliance of the united opposition, who at this moment lag behind Fidesz in the polls, succeed in beating Orbán’s party, they would still face a political field populated with Fidesz loyalists at the top of most constitutional bodies, with years of mandates remaining.

Márton Sarkadi Nagy

Hungarian reporter at Átlátszó, with 10+ years experience in doing investigative reporting for various Hungarian outlets. Based in Budapest.